California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II
At the middle grades level, visual and performing arts and other interest-based courses provide windows to the future for students. Visual and performing arts courses (dance, music, theatre, and visual arts/digital arts) also provide students with important emotional, physical, and psychological supports that engage them in learning about themselves and about skills leading to workforce opportunities. Compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act has led some schools to focus primarily on reading, writing, and mathematics. However, the arts and other electives develop habits of mind that assist student learning in all subjects.
The Education Commission of the States (2005) launched an initiative called The Arts—A Lifetime of Learning based upon the belief that the future ability of our economy and this country will be based on the fact that we have students who are able to be more creative with what they’ve learned than anyone else. The commission, following the Arkansas model, recommends 40 minutes of visual arts instruction two times per week and 40 minutes of music two times in the same week.1
A study by Stanford University (2005) found that musical training improves how the brain processes the spoken word. Stanford researchers hypothesize this could lead to strategies for improving the reading ability of children who have dyslexia and other reading problems.2
John Glenn Middle School of International Studies, Desert Sands Unified School District, a 2004 Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage Model School
John Glenn Middle School
provides a required course program covering world languages, art, drama, and international music. The exploratory course develops students’ awareness and appreciation of these subjects.
The visual and performing arts content standards were adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE) in 2001. The State Board approved and published the Visual and Performing Arts Framework in 2004. The framework provides support and resources for the inclusion of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts courses in the school day (consistent with California Education Code sections 51210 and 51220). Each of the four disciplines of visual and performing arts has five strands that provide connectors within each arts discipline. The following strands serve as the common factor across all four arts disciplines: artistic perception, creative expression, historical and cultural context, aesthetic valuing, and connections/relationship/applications. These strands serve to nurture high-level thinking through sequential standards-based learning.
Technology applications for the visual and performing arts. Many teachers use new media tools such as synthesizers, digital cameras, software, virtual field trips, podcasts, videos, and Web sites in addition to traditional instructional tools. Students gain skills in the use of these tools as they acquire knowledge from dance, music, theatre, and visual arts courses.
California’s county offices of education, through their California County Superintendents Educational Service Association (CCSESA), may provide additional support to districts and schools working to maintain or establish dance, music, theater, and/or visual arts courses for their students.
Georgetown School, Black Oak Mine Unified School District
The arts program at Georgetown receives district support so that exiting students are prepared for the strong high school arts program. The community supports the program by exhibiting student work in local business throughout the year.
Margarita Middle School and Gardner Middle School, Temecula Valley Unified School District
To provide a well-rounded learning environment, support students’ self-esteem and problem-solving skills, and develop creativity among students, both Margarita Middle School and Gardner Middle Schools offer strong visual arts programs.
Mills Middle School, Folsom-Cordova Unified School District
Mills Middle has a strong visual arts program involving many students who have become actively engaged in school and in their own learning. Because the arts engage students in learning, the school staff has used the arts programs to provide additional support for student learning.
Vista Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Vista Unified School District
Vista Academy students learn from credentialed dance, visual arts, music, and theatre teachers who teach to the standards. The entire faculty and community believe that the inclusion of the arts in the students' day sharpens their focus and problem-solving abilities and reduces conflicts within the school. As a result, Vista Academy for Visual and Performing Arts teachers present the arts sequentially from kindergarten through the eighth grade by integrating arts into the curriculum of other content areas. The arts at Vista support students’ growth as individuals and their learning.
1Arts in Education: What States Are Doing (Outside Source) Education Commission of the States.
2Carrie Sturrock, "Playing Music Can Be Good for Your Brain; Stanford Study Finds It Helps the Understanding of Language" (Outside Source), San Francisco Chronicle, November 17, 2005.
3Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development (Outside Source), Washington, D.C.: Arts Education Partnership, 2002.
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California Department of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814